04 November 2016

"Aggressive, Adversarial": My Year of Baseball

I am pretty sure I saw more baseball games in the past year than in the previous eight.

I'm not much of a sports person per se-- if I'd still been in high school when the "sportsball" meme was coined, I suspect I'd've been an obnoxious use of it-- but baseball is probably my favorite sport to watch. It requires just the right amount of attention, as it alternates sort of casual moments with scenes of high drama, meaning you can tune in an out as you chatter with your friends. The rules are complicated enough to be interesting, but not so complicated as to make the sport into cricket.

Because of trips and visits, my wife and I saw four games in-person this summer, which already set a record for me: the Cleveland Indians at the Boston Red Sox, the Fort Wayne TinCaps at the Lake County Captains, the Baltimore Orioles at the Cleveland Indians, and the Brooklyn Cyclones at the Connecticut Tigers. The first three were with my in-laws; my wife's father and brother are both big baseball fans. The last one was mostly because my wife and I wanted to see Connecticut's new minor league team, the Hartford Yard Goats, but their stadium isn't done yet, so we had to settle. My wife isn't a baseball fan in the sense that she obsessively follows the sport, but it has a lot of nostalgic associations for her. (My childhood associations are mostly my dad forcing me to play ghost baseball with him. He always won.)

At all four games we saw this summer, the team we were rooting for lost. Sometimes quite badly, as in the case of the Tigers. That game was over so quickly it was embarrassing. But I enjoyed all four games. Though, as someone who grew up in a National League town, this whole "designated hitter" thing is complete bullshit. The whole point of baseball is that the same people do defense and offense. Step up to the plate!

But now in the fall, baseball has reared its head again. No more in-person games, but we watched one of the pennant games and several World Series games on television (or on the radio) because my wife's beloved Cleveland Indians were in it. This gets me excited too. And the fact that the 2015-16 primary election turned me into a FiveThirtyEight aficionado means that suddenly I'm reading tons of articles on baseball as long as they mention the Indians, and now I finally understand the concept of relief pitchers. The Indians have played some great games, and some awful ones, and who would have guessed that Game Seven of the World Series would be so exciting. What a comeback, even if they didn't win in the end.

Outside of the fun of actually attending games, I think I like baseball's sense of history. I remember watching Ken Burns's Baseball on PBS as a kid, and hailing from Cincinnati, I'm of course proud that we're home to the first professional team, even if the current Reds are really the third team of that name, and there are just so many goofy stories in the early days of baseball. (Or even later. I just distracted myself in the middle of writing this by reading about Nippon Professional Baseball on Wikipedia.)

If I was seriously into a sport, it would be baseball... though it's hard to imagine myself being seriously into a sport!

Now this is my kind of baseball.
(Seriously, this is one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, even more so now that I've watched it with my wife.)

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